Sunday, June 19, 2011

Americana Overload

Americana Overload for sure! We have experienced some good old American fun this past week and it all started with the Tractor Pull.

A pork burger and two chili cheese dogs do not sit well when trying to bike 65 miles per day. We have been doing a great job with food, even incorporating shrimp pasta dinners instead of a Mac and cheese every night. But the Tractor Pull sign was just calling our names and we couldn't resist some good Indiana fun and food.

It was an odd mix of country folk in their tractors and Amish families with their horse and buggies. I think our coming to the festival was one of the highlights of the day and we even got our picture taken by one of the women who organizes the event. But the highlight for us was the event itself. I had never even heard of a tractor pull, though judging by the name I was able to figure it out. It was exactly what you'd expect. A bunch of dudes standing by their tractors, ready to be the one to pull the weight the farthest.

We were so psyched that we got the opportunity to experience a little local fun on our trip. So many times we pass a sign that reads, "Chicken BBQ, July 2" or "Strawberry Festival, August 5." Nothing seems to be happening on the day we actually ride by, but June 11 was different. Not only did we get the Tractor Pull, but we also found a fresh strawberry stand. We pulled in not a minute too soon and were able to buy a quart of strawberries from William before his neighbor Sally pulled in and bought the rest of case. William was Amish and we spent a few minutes talking with him and his kids, Andy and Ruthann, before we continued on. It was here that we took our first book order! He told us to write down his address so we can send him a book when we finished our tour. We thanked him for the strawberries and rode back to into Michigan hoping to find a place to rest our heads. Not even five miles down the road, we found a veteran-owned motel where the owner let us camp out in the back for free.

I have to take a minute here and point out Adam's amazing photography- especially of our Eastern Mountain Sports tent. We all know what an amazing photographer he is, but it's nice having someone else recognize his talent. Eastern Mountain Sports, one of our favorite outdoor gear companies, blogged about us the other day which is very cool, but even better is that they gave major props to Adam's photography! Such great encouragement as Adam strives to be a commercial photographer with these types of products.

The next day was a funny mix. We were chased by dogs in farm country at the beginning of the day, and riding next to beaches by dinner.

At lunch, we were lucky enough to not only find a festival and parade in Three Oaks, Michigan, but it just so happened to be The World's Biggest Flag Day Parade. How could we miss that? We grabbed lunch at the gas station and settled down to watch the parade. I was amazed at all of the floats and vehicles and dances and music, but what caught my eye the most was the constant floats with beauty queens. There must have been a dozen of these floats. The guy next to us told us, "You name any flower and we've got a beauty contest for it. Daffodils, Cherry Blossoms, even Asparagus! She looks great in green!"

So apparently, out here you can be at a Tractor Pull one day, then the next day be spending the evening on Lake Michigan in a house with this view out your window.

We met Alan and his dog, Oscar, while riding down Lake Shore Drive along Lake Michigan. Alan generously invited us to spend the night at his lake-front house. How could we say no? Alan and his wife, Kathy, treated us to a great dinner and we provided the apple pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

The next day led us through the dunes, onto paved bike paths, to a little public library where they had free tea and wafers, and finally to Bob's house.

Bob seemed like your average Joe, but with the amount of places he volunteers, he was more a super man. He told us about a few organizations in Chicago, including the one he volunteered at called Working Bikes, that recycled old bikes and gave them to all sorts of community projects for people in need. We loved learning of all of the different projects Working Bikes helped with like bikes for Katrina Victims, bikes for those in developing countries, and bikes for local people in need.

When we left the next day, Bob joined us for a few miles on his way to the soup kitchen he volunteered at in Hammond, IN. After that, it was on to Chicago with some amazing bike trails into the city.

More Americana was found in Chicago when we got to see a Cubs game. Not only did we get to see the baseball game, but we were given the best seats we'll ever have for any baseball game ever. Since we had been given four tickets to the game, we took our Chicago hosts, Leah and Lincoln. Hot dogs and beer and baseball. Can't get any more Americana than that.

Chicago didn't stop with just a baseball game, though. We spent our first day riding up along the lake to Millennium Park where we found The Bean. I think there are finally more pictures of something else besides me! Adam couldn't get enough of The Bean and you can see why. What fun!

On our second trip back to The Bean that day, we found the Twix cart gearing up to give away free Twix bars. We hit them up for as much as they were willing to give us and scarfed them down immediately. Mmmmmmm.. I could totally go for a Twix right now.

To counter the Twix feast and hot dogs and beer, we got to do a 25 mile ride with a Woman's Group from Higher Gear Bike Shop in Wilmette, IL, just north of Chicago. We loved it! These women booked it and it felt good to really fly for a bit without 50 pounds of gear on our bikes. We have Sylvie to thank for inviting us to the ride and for the awesome Cubs tickets!!

One of our favorite experiences of the trip so far was when we met some of the wounded veterans who were trying out hand cycles at Walter Reed hospital in D.C. Unfortunately, since the bikes we're getting for World Bicycle Relief are going to a different country, we won't necessarily meet any of the recipients along our 50 state tour, but the next best thing was to meet the people who made it all happen.

The headquarters for World Bicycle Relief is in Chicago, so we finally got to put faces with the names of people we've been working with over email for so many months. We knew it already, but the people of WBR are awesome! They are devoted, hard working, passionate people and love their jobs. We got to give a presentation to some of the WBR crew and enjoyed a mini WBR presentation as well as a little tour of the SRAM headquarters who founded World Bicycle Relief. We even got to ride one of the WBR bikes. Talk about a sturdy bike, those things weighed almost as much as our bikes fully loaded! The visit was a huge inspiration for us as we continue our tour. I just wrote my latest Patch article about WBR and you can read that here!

We were feeling good after the many meetings and greetings we had this past week, but we didn't want our bikes to feel left out. Higher Gear hooked us up with a tune-up, then we had some presents for our bikes waiting for us at our friend Leigh's place outside of Chicago.

It isn't as bad as it looks. We bought four new tires from Amazon and they packaged each tire individually in one of those huge boxes. Very unnecessary but it made us laugh when we got to Leigh's and had all of these boxes waiting for us. We also had some nice new black leather saddles courtesy of Selle-Anatomica to replace the two brown leather saddles we had in the beginning of the trip. That was more a present for our bums rather than our bikes. It looked like we would have a little bit of bike maintenance to do at Leigh's.

First thing was first, though. Some Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza. We went out with Leigh and her husband Scott and met up with another friend from high school, Shaun and his wife, Gina. It's always a comforting feeling when we get to see old friends, especially when we are constantly meeting new people everywhere we go. Some good reminiscing and a lot of Deep Dish Pizza hit the spot and after a package-opening session back at Leigh's we fell fast asleep.

Our bikes had new life in them with all the maintenance, but as any cyclist knows(does this now qualify us as cyclists?), it does take a little finageling to get the seat to fit you just right. We're still working on that, but the saddles are coming along and our butts are slowly adjusting.

We spent the day on some amazing Illinois bike trails, gearing up for Wisconsin. Everyone has been telling us that Wisconsin has great roads for biking and they were so right! Besides the fact that this was the first time we really felt like someone was close to hitting us (they were making a left hand turn onto the road we were on, didn't see us, and almost plowed right into Adam), we've been happy with the roads and in awe of the landscape. Plus, we've been getting some tail winds for the first time in a long time.

We did have a couple of set backs on our way to Wisconsin that day, though. It started with Julie and Mark who were riding their bikes to a wedding. Unfortunately, Mark got a flat and they had nothing to fix it. But lucky them, they ran into us with our never-ending supply of patches! We quickly helped them on their way, and then got on our way. About five minutes down the road, though, it was my turn. I guess I must have pinched the tube when putting on the new tires that morning because all of a sudden we heard a loud BANG! and my tire was flat flat flat. Ten minutes later and a new tube on my bike and we were on our way. Flat # 37.

We finished our ride to Lake Geneva to stay with Nancy and Craig, family of our World Bicycle Relief crew, who took us in for the night. They loaded us up with veggies before they brought us to a great place for dinner and then another yummy spot for breakfast the next morning. The lake house they had was so serene, we really weren't sure if we we're going to leave. Apparently the birds were chirping loud enough at 4:30 in the morning to wake up Nancy and Craig, but Adam and I slept right on through it.

Our final stop on our Americana Overload tour was a little Wisconsin cheese shop in Delevan. The owner of Brick Street Market, Laura Welch, invited us to sit down and get some work done while we enjoyed all the different cheeses. We had cheddar cheese, gouda cheese with mustard seeds, and cheese soaked in a local beer. All the while we caught up on some much needed work that had been put on the back burner during the past crazy week.

When we left the shop at 4:30 the afternoon, our plan was to head northeast, but the eastern wind made us think otherwise, and we used the wind to our full advantage and headed due west. Janesville is home tonight and we're heading to Madison tomorrow. So weird to say Madison and not mean home. Ahhh, home will come soon enough, I'm sure.

A very happy father's day to all of those father's out there but especially Papa P, Papa C, and the brand new Papa Kimuli.


  1. So glad you two are enjoying the Midwest of our great states! I consider it the heart & soul of this country but that's just been my experience. Thanks for taking us along your adventure; a truly unique journey of a lifetime. Be safe out there!!

  2. Adam and Christy great job with pictures and comments. It appears "LIFE" is good when reviewing your work in between cycling and visiting with your host(s). I don't know how you two do it, but don't stop.
    Rich Keep on Truckin.

  3. Adam & Christy,

    Fantastic blog post. It was Adam's photography that fist got me hooked on your journey and we are so happy to hear it is being recognized!

    Sounds like your trip has been amazing and your adventures many as you make your way through the states. It's amazing how many "micro-adventures" you can find yourself involved in while on a big trip.

    We continue to follow the both of you while we're on the road. It's great to be in contact with someone else going through the same type of thing.

    Not going to lie (I've always bee a little jealous of Adam's photos!) I think not just the photos, but to both of you having the gumption to not only recognize a good photo op, but having the energy to make sure you get the right photo, all while enduring a long day on the bike.

    Wind at your back, air in your tires!